Summer fun and soccer balls

Perhaps one of “our” balls in the air with Glen, on its way to bring our solidarity and joy to a village.
Perhaps one of “our” balls in the air with Glen, on its way to bring our solidarity and joy to a village.

I’m delighted to be spending this summer working with our children, youth, and families here at First Baptist Church of Palo Alto. The older youth and I have already spent some time brainstorming possibilities for some fun events this summer. We’ve talked about movie nights, going to see a pro baseball or soccer game, visiting the zoo, and maybe an overnight lock‐in at the church. In the next week or two we’ll make some concrete plans, hoping we can arrange a few events that will fit into the busy schedules of our young people.

On Sunday mornings in July, the youth and I will be working through a few sessions of the re:form DVD series, focusing first on a series of conversations about the nature of the Bible. The questions we’ll be talking about will echo many of the same issues discussed in the adult spiritual formation sessions led by Corinna Guerrero in June.

As I mentioned in worship a few weeks ago, we are celebrating the reports we’ve received from ABC missionary Glen Chapman about his distribution of 60 soccer balls to youth and communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. You will recall that our youth helped the church raise more than $900 in a special offering earlier this year to fund this effort.

Amid the “World Cup fever” that has captivated so many people this summer, it is wonderful to see the soccer connection made between our youth and other kids on the opposite side of the globe. I’m including a few of the pictures that Glen sent, but you really owe it to yourself to go on the Web and view the video of the powered parachute (PPC) that Glen has used to distribute the soccer balls and in his other missionary travels. You can find it by going to Glen’s page on the ABC‐USA’s International Ministries website or at this link:
http://www.internationalministries.org/read/28124‐2‐years‐of‐flying‐the‐ppc‐in‐congo

I continue to be excited about the good things going on at First Baptist Church, especially among the great group of young people here. I wish each of you a peaceful and joyous summer.

Pastor Doug

Glen and his flying machine!
Glen and his flying machine!

 

Ready for Take-off!
Ready for Take-off!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Powerful Foolishness (May 11, 2014)

Doug DavidsonPOWERFUL FOOLISHNESS

A sermon preached by Doug Davidson
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA
Sunday, May 11, 2012

Text: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

I want to share a concern with you.

Or, maybe I should say it another way: I’m a little worried.

Yes. Worried. Let me explain.

I think some of us have been hanging around the church for too long.

No, really–I mean it. I think some of us have spent so much time in church that we’ve gotten the wrong idea. We’ve been soaking in these waters of Christianity for so long, that we’ve developed a certain… misconception.

We’ve started to think the message of the cross is just good common sense.

We think the Gospel blends nicely with conventional wisdom.

We think the word of the cross is easily harmonized with the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Let’s see, it’s “1. Be Proactive, 2. Begin with the end in mind, and #3. If you want to be my disciple, take up your cross and follow me.Or we think it fits well with the practical suggestions of Ben Franklin and his Poor Richard’s Almanac. Get up early, eat your vegetables, brush your teeth, work hard, oh, and bless those who persecute you. It’s the recipe for success, right?

I think maybe we’ve heard so many sermons, we’ve sung so many hymns, we’ve spent so many hours and days and week and years in churches, we’ve gotten used to it. We’ve lost sight of how crazy this message of a crucified Jesus is. How foolish. How improbable and unacceptable. How radically ridiculous.

The apostle Paul understood how extraordinary it was to suggest that God’s power is revealed to the world on a cross. Paul was a Jew, so he knew it didn’t match Jewish expectations of what a messiah would look like. Nor did it match the wisdom for which the Greeks were famous. Yet in this letter to the Christians in Corinth, Paul lifts up the cross. God’s power and wisdom are revealed, says Paul, through Jesus’ crucifixion—an event the world understands only as weakness and foolishness. This cross, Paul says, offers an upside-down wisdom that causes religious folks to stumble, and makes philosophers shake their heads.

God’s power is revealed in a Jesus who, in faithfulness, empties himself of everything that looks like power.

Here’s the shape of God’s saving power, Paul says. It’s not in kings and generals and armies. It’s not in wealth and degrees. It’s in a Jesus who is betrayed and abandoned; who is stripped, beaten, and executed like a common criminal. And this one hanging on the cross calls us to follow him.

Now, maybe some of us have been around churches for so long that we’ve forgotten how ludicrous this word of the cross might sound. And that’s one reason it’s important to remember that Paul didn’t write these words with us in mind. Paul was writing a personal letter to the church in Corinth, a community of Christ followers living just 20 to 30 years after Jesus’ death. Paul wasn’t writing for the twenty-first century seminarians in Berkeley or the Baptists in Palo Alto. We’re eavesdropping. We’re reading someone else’s mail.

What’s more, as we read Paul’s words about the foolishness of the cross, we need to understand that we’re stepping into an ongoing drama. Now, if we open our Bibles, and see that we’re reading from the first chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we might think we’re getting the beginning of the story. But as Suzanne Watts Henderson reminds us, First Corinthians “plunges readers into a conversation well underway.”[1] We’re jumping right into the middle of the scene. It’s like we’ve come home and grabbed our popcorn, sat down on the couch and turned on the TV, only to find out the show has already started. And we need to try to piece together who the characters are and what’s already going on.

In fact, it’s clear that in First Corinthians, we’re not just in the middle of an episode, we’re already several seasons into the drama. In chapter 5, verse 9, Paul refers to an earlier letter he’d written to the Corinthians, about some major issues that had entered the church. We don’t have that letter. So we need to remember that this invitation to embrace the foolishness of the cross isn’t really from “The first letter of Paul to the Corinthians,” despite what it says at the top of the page in my Bible. It’s from the first letter we have.

So figuring out exactly what word God might have for us, here, today, is a major task. Because we’re starting with a letter written 2,000 years ago that picks up in the middle of an ongoing conversation with another community in another time and another place.

But knowing a little bit about Corinth can help us begin to unpack it. Corinth was a Roman colony situated between two seaports. It was a city of diversity, “a thriving melting pot where social mobility and economic opportunity fostered vigorous competition.”[2] Sounds a little bit like Palo Alto. And the Corinthian church reflected the city’s diversity. There were Jews and Greeks, and slaves and free persons, rich and poor—a wild mix of cultures, and classes and customs. And the followers of Christ there, reflected that diversity. And from everything we can gather, they were at each other’s throats, arguing about what they thought be doing, and where the church was headed.

Paul refers to different factions within the church. Some of the believers claimed loyalty to other preachers who’d been with them, like Apollos, or Cephas. Others claimed allegiance to Paul himself—and he wasn’t really any happier about that. See for Paul it’s not about the preacher; it’s about the cross. In fact, in verse 17, Paul celebrates that he really wasn’t much of a speaker. He claims that his own proclamation was “not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.” Paul seems to think the Corinthians are getting caught up in the rhetoric of their teachers. Their ability to craft brilliant arguments and communicate human ideas of knowledge—it’s getting in the way. Because it’s not about the skill and technique of a particular teacher. It’s about the power of God, which comes in the unexpected form of a crucified Lord. And it’s this power that Paul heralds as the one thing that could unite the Corinthians across all their diversity and differences.

But two thousand years later, in this heavily Christianized culture, I think we can lose our sense of how scandalous and improbable the cross is. We see crosses in our churches, some of us wear them as jewelry around our necks, or have them tattoed on our biceps. It’s become the symbol of our faith. But Beverly Gaventa says Paul’s assertion that the cross demonstrated God’s power “must have struck some of Paul’s contemporaries as the ravings of a madman.” The cross wasn’t a symbol of power. It was, in fact, “the antithesis of power–except as it revealed the power of the Roman Empire to crush those regarded as opponents.”

But the reality of the cross can still shatter our presuppositions. I was reminded of this one day when our family was living on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, where my wife was working on her M.Div. Our son, Elliot, was probably about three years old at the time. One afternoon Elliot and I walked into the seminary library to drop off a book for a friend.

As we stepped through the bright red doors, moving from the bright sunlight into the darkened vestibule of the library, Elliot stopped in his tracks. There, on the wall to his right, hung a sculpted crucifix, nearly life size. I watched his young eyes study Jesus’ agonized face, the dying body nailed to a tree, the nails piercing his hands and feet.

I knew the image was a new one to him. He wasn’t used to it. He’d spent much of his young life in churches, but the crosses in our Baptist church were all clean and sanitized; their Jesuses were all resurrected and ascended.

For a moment, I considered hustling him back out the door, thinking maybe I should try to shield him from this holy horror in the same way I would sometimes “rewrite” the violent plots of his Batman comic books when I read them aloud. But he’d already taken it all in.

I thought he might cry. Instead, without ever taking his eyes off the dying Jesus, he slowly spoke words filled with great sadness and wonder: “What happened?”

Elliot reminded me of the great mystery of it all. He felt the horror of it. He’d heard stories about this Jesus who welcomed children, and healed sick people, and chased after lost sheep. But somehow this Jesus taught and healed and forgave and loved others with an intensity that threatened the religious and political powers of his day. Jesus didn’t color within the lines. He hung out with prostitutes, and ate with sinners, and welcomed the marginalized and forsaken. And he talked about a different kingdom, one that belonged to the poor, and the hungry, and downtrodden. So they made a symbol out of him: Here’s what happens when you mess with the system. You end up dead on a cross. That’s the way the world’s power works. We dare not shield ourselves from the horrible reality of this.

But that’s not the whole story. Because on the cross, Jesus demonstrated his devotion to the same love that he incarnated throughout his life. He was willing to trust in faith that the future was in God’s hands, not in the hands of the religious and political authorities who conspired to kill him. In his death, Jesus embodied the same radical devotion to God’s exorbitant love that he revealed throughout his life.

You see, Jesus lived in ways that weren’t very…practical. They don’t match up well with common sense. And he called those who would follow him to this same way. Here’s the path to life, says Jesus. It’s foolishness. Love your enemies. Bless those who persecute you. Forgive without end. Give away all you have. Drop everything and follow me. Don’t worry about the future. Live a life of radical devotion to the one who created you. That’s God’s wisdom. Yes, it may put you at odds with the rulers of this world, who think they have the key to life. But it aligns you with something greater, with a love so powerful that even death cannot extinguish it.

So what does this mean for us, for this group of believers here at First Baptist Church of Palo Alto? How do we live into this new age? Here we sit, a few blocks from Stanford University, one of the preeminent educational institutions in the world. We’re in Silicon Valley—our neighbors are Facebook, Google, Apple, and tons of other technological companies that are reshaping the world. Palo Alto has more than it’s share of the world’s wisdom and power. How can this little church have any impact? What can we offer in light of the technological and economic power, unimaginable wealth, and knowledge that surrounds us?

What we have to share with the world is a knowledge that’s rooted in something very different. It’s a power revealed in weakness. In serving others. In practicing forgiveness. In humility. In foolish acts of faithfulness. In grace and welcome to all. This is the way God’s spirit breaks into the world.

What does it mean to worship a God whose wisdom is revealed on a cross? It means we seek to embody that same faithfulness to God that Jesus lived. It means inviting God to break our captivity to worldly conceptions of power and wisdom. It means finding our true unity by committing ourselves ever more fully to the upside-down logic of the cross. And it means knowing that when we fall short in our efforts to be faithful, and we will, we have a God’s whose forgiveness and love cover our failures.

Paul declares that God has chosen the weak of this world to shame the wise. Let us learn to let go of our own futile grasps at power and wisdom, that we might deepen our commitment to the crucified Christ. Amen.

[1] Suzanne Watts Henderson, “1 Corinthians,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible One-Volume Commentary, Beverly Roberts Gaventa and David L. Petersen, eds. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010), 788.

[2] Henderson, 788.

On Baptism

Doug DavidsonIn recent weeks, I have been thinking a lot about baptism. (Yes, seminary does invite you to spend a good bit of time contemplating such things!) In particular, I have been considering the central place that baptism occupies within the Christian faith, and the particular significance it has for us as Baptists. After all, we are part of a church tradition that got its very name from the distinctive way in which it practiced the baptism of believers by immersion.

During March, I will be spending three Sundays with our youth in which we’ll be talking about the meaning of baptism. I am really looking forward to this time. Additionally, Pastor Rick, Pastor Tripp, and I have been in conversation about building one of our worship services later this spring around the theme of baptism. I wanted to invite each of you to consider participating in that process in several possible ways:

  1. If you would be interested in sharing a bit about the significance of baptism in your own faith journey, I would love to speak with you. Perhaps one or more adults could join the youth during the Sunday school hour to share a brief word about what baptism means to them. Or, maybe we might include your stories in the worship service we are planning.
  2. If you’ve never been baptized and would like to consider taking this step of faith, the pastors would love to speak with you about that possibility. We would be delighted to be in conversation with you as you consider whether you might want to be baptized.

I am very much looking forward to having the opportunity to talk with our youth—and with any others who are interested–about what baptism means. I know many of our youth have been baptized already, and I look forward to conversations about how they understand the significance of that. And, while my time with the youth won’t be directed toward pressuring anyone, I will make it clear that our congregation would be delighted to celebrate with any who feel called to respond to God’s invitation to be baptized. It’s a joy and a privilege to be partnering with you as our congregation considers the new things God is doing among us.

Doug Davidson

Rooted in Steadfast Love

Doug DavidsonThe first half of my nine‐month internship here at First Baptist Church of Palo Alto has been a wonderful opportunity for me to “try on” the role of pastor for the first time in a congregational setting. Pastor Rick is a wise, caring, and supportive leader to learn from, and I’ve benefited greatly from working alongside Tripp and Naomi, both of whom bring great insight, experience, and passion to their work. I have deeply valued having the opportunity to involve myself in the life of this vibrant community‐‐to participate in the planning and leading of worship on a weekly basis, to lead the Adult Spiritual Formation class from time to time, to work with the youth, and to meet with the various leadership teams that shape the life of our congregation.

On my very first Sunday with you back in September, our church celebrated its 120th anniversary. It was obvious to me that day that this congregation takes a lot of pride in its long history of active ministry in this community. And it’s been clear to me in the months since then that God is still active in our midst, as we consider what new ways we might respond to the Spirit’s leading.

Our Scriptures tell the story of a God who becomes known in the unfolding of the history of a particular community of believers. The Israelites told and retold the tales of God’s activity in their midst. By remembering God’s liberating work in their past, they were empowered to confront the challenges and struggles that faced them in the present. In Psalm 136, the community recounts particular moments of God’s presence among them. And with the recalling of each event, both the highs and the lows, the same refrain is repeated: “God’s steadfast love endures forever.”

I’m grateful to be connected with a church that has such an amazing heritage. And I believe the future is bright for First Baptist Church of Palo Alto. As a congregation, you have recognized the need to find new ways to enliven your ministry in the changing context of Palo Alto today. Even as I look forward to exploring other facets of my own ministry during my second semester with you, I look forward to seeing how the mission of this church will continue to unfold. How comforting to know that the God who has brought us this far will strengthen and sustain us through the next chapter of our journey. “O Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever ” (Ps. 136:1).

‐‐Doug Davidson

Prepare the Way (December 8, 2013)

sermonsPREPARE THE WAY

A Sermon by Doug Davidson
First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, December 8, 2013

Text: Matthew 3:1-12

I want to begin with a confession.

I am not a neat person. The truth is, I’m pretty messy. It’s not that I seem disorganized, but in reality, I always know exactly where everything is. I’m not messy like my old boss in my very first job after college, who had mountains of paper all over his desk, on the floor, and every other flat surface in his office, but somehow he always knew exactly where everything was. I’d go in and ask if he had a copy of the budget report and he’d (shuffle through papers) and say, “Here it is.”

No, I’m not like that. I’m just messy.

Now, if you were to come over to my house for dinner, you might not realize what a mess I am. Because chances are, if we know you’re coming, Jen and I have both arranged to take a couple of hours off that afternoon to clean up. Maybe we’ve even taken Elliot out of school early, so he can take care of his part. We’ve got the process down to a science; we know who does what, and we know exactly how long it takes to transform our house from its usual state into a place the feels worthy of guests. So by the time you arrive on the scene, things should look pretty good. As long as you don’t show up an hour early, and you don’t ever open the bedroom door, you might never realize what a mess I can be.

When I knew I was going to be preaching about John the Baptist, this wild-eyed prophet and his call to prepare the way of the Lord, one of the first images that came to mind was our last minute cleanup when guests are coming over. Perhaps John wants us to tidy up our mess—or at least hide it where it won’t be seen. Get the house in order. Someone really important is about to arrive—and you definitely don’t want to be found as you really are. It’s time to straighten up.

I think that’s one way we could read John’s call to “prepare the way”—and there’s probably some truth in it. In fact, if John the Baptist were sitting here in the front row, dressed in his camel hair suit and leather belt, munching on some locusts with a wild honey chaser, he might tell us that’s exactly what he had in mind.

But I think there’s something else in this story, a truth that to me seems a bit more subtle and slippery. It’s one of those elusive truths that I feel like I get into focus for a little while, and then I lose it. So I’d like to flip this familiar story over, shake it a little bit, and see what else we might find. Because I think this Advent story about John the Baptist might have something else to tell us about the upside-down nature of the reign of God—and the Christ who always comes to us in ways that confound our expectations and assumptions.

After all, it’s pretty clear Jesus wasn’t exactly the kind of Messiah John the Baptist expected. We meet John near the very beginning of each of the four Gospels. He’s the zealous prophet who heralds the coming of the Lord. He’s kind of like the hype man at a concert whose job is to pump up the crowd, before the main act takes the stage. John knew that One was coming who was more powerful that he was. If ever there was anyone equipped to really understand who Jesus was, it was John.

Yet both Matthew and Luke offer us a second glimpse of this Baptizing prophet. And in that second scene, we see John a few years later, locked away in prison, where he is soon to be executed. And, clearly, he’s having his doubts. He’s told everyone that, in Jesus, the kingdom of God has come. But Jesus is not ushering in God’s reign in the ways John expected. John imagined a Messiah who would end Rome’s domination of his people and their land. But as John languishes in prison, he begins to wonder if maybe he got it all wrong. Maybe Jesus wasn’t the one, after all.

Do you remember what he does? John sends a group of his own disciples to Jesus to ask him “Are you the one who is to come or is there another?” I love how Jesus answers. He tells John’s disciples, “Go tell John what you hear and see. The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”

These are the signs Jesus offers to assure John, to assure us, that, in him, the reign of God has come. God’s reign is made real in a Jesus who meets people in poverty, in sickness, in brokenness, in weakness, in the hurting places of their lives. It’s revealed in a Christ who meets each of us, not after we’ve got ourselves all cleaned up, but in the midst of our mess. It is revealed in the Christ who meets us where we are.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to John in the wilderness for a minute. Matthew tells us “the people of Jerusalem and all Judea” came to be “baptized by [John] in the river Jordan, confessing their sins” (3:5-6). We tend to think of baptism as a Christian practice, but for Jews in the time of Jesus, it was quite common. It was thought of as a cleansing rite, “intended to prepare a strongly demarcated people for the coming day of God.”[1] In fact, in those days, there was a baptizer on every street corner. What was, perhaps, unique to John’s baptizing was his insistence on the need for radical change, or repentance. Indeed, if one were to boil the Baptizer’s message down to a single word, that word would be “Repent!”

Perhaps it’s John’s emphasis on repentance that explains the dramatic change in tone we find beginning at the midpoint of our Gospel story today. In the first six verses, we read that people from all regions and all walks of life were coming to John to be baptized. But Matthew tells us that “when John saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism,” he was furious. “You brood of vipers!” John exclaims. “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matt. 3:7-8). From the cool waters of baptism, John’s attention shifts to fiery words of judgment.

Now, the Pharisees and Sadducees tend to get a pretty bad rap throughout the gospels—and often it’s for good reason. But these were people who’d given their entire lives to the practice of devotion to God. They were known for their “exacting interpretation and scrupulous observance” of the law. They took their faith seriously. They were the ones who never missed worship, and always stayed for the adult spiritual formation hour after synagogue. They were deeply invested in living out their faith. And they may well have argued that their vocations—their entire way of life—was all about “preparing” for the coming Messiah.

Yet John—and later Jesus—seems to suggest that this is the heart of the problem. This belief that their own houses were in order, this security they found in their own exacting religious practices and their identity as children of Abraham—these things about which they were most proud—were often barriers that kept them from the kingdom of heaven.

The baptism John practiced was a ritual of repentance that begins with confession. It begins in recognizing our own need. It begins in admitting that there’s a lot of mess and pain in us that we don’t know how to let go of. Or, to say it another way, such a baptism begins in recognizing that, in and of ourselves, we don’t know how to “prepare the way.” Our lives are unmanageable. We don’t know how to get our own houses in order. Repentance begins with the recognition that God’s path through the wilderness may be straight; but ours is anything but.

As I pondering this prophet and his message of repentance, I couldn’t help but make the connection to Nelson Mandela. Like John the Baptist, Mandela was locked in a prison because he preached of the need for radical change, change that was a threat to the oppressive apartheid regime in South Africa. In one of the many tributes written about Mandela this week, I found the quote that appears at the beginning of our order of worship. In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela wrote: “To be truly prepared for something one must expect it. One cannot be prepared for something while secretly believing it will not happen.”

When I first read that quotation, I assumed Mandela had written those words to encourage his fellow South Africans to live in expectation of a more just future, even though it was not yet a reality. I assumed he was encouraging them—encouraging us–to keep faith, to prepare the way by living in expectation of a future they had not yet seen.

But the real context of these particular words is very different. Mandela wasn’t talking about a future in which our hopes would be realized. When Mandela wrote “To be truly prepared for something one must expect it” he was writing about the likelihood that he was to be executed by the apartheid government. He was preparing to die. Both John and Jesus knew that same reality, the cost that can come from confronting empire. For John, it led to his execution in prison. For Jesus, it led to a cross.

Perhaps this is where the cool, cleansing waters of the baptism John proclaims meet the “fire” we find near the end of our passage. John warns those religious leaders that every tree that “does not bear good fruit” will be “cut down and thrown into the fire” (3:10). This is an image of judgment, but it might also be understood as a fire that purges. For the Jewish religious leaders of John’s day—and perhaps for us—the false sense that we can “prepare the way” through our own efforts may need to be burned away. Perhaps our belief in our own adequacy is part of what needs to come and die, if new life is to be born in us.

During this Advent time, we prepare our hearts again to celebrate the coming of Emmanuel, the one whose name means God with us. We are preparing to celebrate again the way in which God was born into this messy world in Jesus. Because of this we can proclaim that, in the midst of our hurts, and our struggles, and our insecurities, God is for us. Yet as David Bartlett has written, “God with us” means not only a God who is steadfastly for us, but one who stands against “the old pretensions and securities that prevent us from faithfulness.”[2]

You know, if you ever do come over dinner, and we have enough time to get the house cleaned up, one of the last things I usually do is go outside and sweep the path that leads up to our front door. If John really is calling us to get our houses in order, maybe that begins with sweeping away the deceptions we have about how we’ve already got it together. Because in the midst of all John’s firey language, I hear an invitation. It’s an invitation to let go. I hear an invitation to prepare to meet God as we really are. Fragile. Weak. Vulnerable. Broken. Messy. To admit our need. To let the illusions be burned away. To prepare our hearts for the coming of a King who is born not in a palace but into the mess of our human reality. To open ourselves to the coming of the one who can take the broken stuff of our lives and our world, and join with us to fashion it into something beautiful, something just, something life-giving.

We don’t need to tidy up. We don’t need to make ourselves “presentable.” We need to prepare the way by opening ourselves, so that we might be ready, during this Advent season and each day, for the miracle that is Christ, born anew, into our lives and into our world. Amen.


[1] Gordon W. Lathrop, Holy Ground: A Liturgical Cosmology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), 118.

[2] David Bartlett, “The Gospel According to Matthew,” in The New Proclamation Commentary on the Gospels, Andrew F. Gregory, ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006), 21.

Visions of Jesus: Adult Spiritual Formation

“Two thousand years ago, an itinerant Jewish preacher and miracle
worker walked across the Galilee, gathering followers to establish what
he called the ‘Kingdom of God.’ The revolutionary movement he
launched was so threatening to the established order that he was captured,
tortured, and executed as a state criminal. Within decades after
his shameful death, his followers would call him God.”

–Reza Aslan, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus mosaicPlease join us for our Adult Spiritual Formation hour during the month of January as we consider the topic, “Visions of Jesus.” Beginning with the engaging portrait that Reza Aslan offers in his provocative new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, we will consider how different views of Jesus’ life and teachings point toward different understandings of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. We will examine Aslan’s image of Jesus as a radical political revolutionary whose goal was to liberate his people from Roman occupation. We will also look at the cultural controversy that has arisen surrounding this Muslim religious scholar’s authorship of a book about Jesus. In addition
to examining Aslan’s portrait of Jesus, we’ll also consider our own images of Jesus, and how they shape our faith and our understanding of God. We’ll also review the unique glimpse of Jesus that emerges in each of the four Gospels, giving attention to the nuances, variations, and differing emphases that characterize each biblical author’s sketch
of Jesus’ life. Please plan to be with us for worship and stay for the second hour for conversation about how a closer consideration of the “historical Jesus” can enliven and transform Christian faith and discipleship in the twenty-first century.

–Doug Davidson